York-based George Turner has denied two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a thoroughbred-type filly which included failing to meet her needs by providing a suitable diet. Turner, of Broad Balk Lane, was however found guilty of both offenses, after a trial at York Magistrates Court on December 12 and 14 2022, following a prosecution by the RSPCA.
The animal welfare charity became involved in the case after being contacted by a concerned member of the public, who sent in photos of the horse’s emaciated condition.
At a sentencing hearing on 10 January, Turner was given an 18-week custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months, and disqualified from keeping all equines for ten years.
Magistrates heard how RSPCA inspector Alice Cooper, along with an equine veterinary surgeon, two police officers, and a representative from the charity World Horse Welfare had visited Turner’s field in Norton-Le-Clay on 23 Nov 2020 where the filly, and four other adult thoroughbred-type horses, were being kept.
Turner appeared at the location and confirmed that all the horses were his and watched as the vet examined the young horse.
In her evidence, inspector Cooper said: “The horse was very thin. Her spine was prominent and protruded like a ridge along her back, and the bones around her back end looked sharp and pointy. Her demeanour seemed very subdued, and she stood with her head bowed. When walking she appeared slow and quite weak.”
The horse also had extensive rain scald across her back and rump but had not been provided with any shelter to escape adverse weather conditions.
The vet confirmed the filly was suffering and she was seized by the police. Such was her weak condition that when transportation arrived, she collapsed as she stepped onto the trailer and had to be supported back to her feet with a strap placed around her middle.
Magistrates heard how the horse was initially taken to a specialist equine hospital for treatment and then onto a boarding establishment, where most days she had to be assisted to stand up. Her condition then sadly deteriorated even further and vets made the decision to put her to sleep on humane grounds to prevent further suffering.
A post mortem revealed she had an emaciated body condition, extensive ulceration of the stomach – which may have been predisposed by a lack of adequate food – and a heavy worm burden.
“The clinical examination of this horse showed an animal that was in extremely poor condition and was very obviously sick and in need of veterinary attention,” she said. “The horse was very dull and weak and it would have been obvious to even a lay person that she was in extremely poor body condition and emaciated. These factors were chronic in nature and a responsible, reasonable and caring horse owner would have recognised that the horse was failing to thrive and was becoming emaciated.
“The forage provided in the field for the horses was not enough to provide them all with their daily nutritional requirements. The filly may have experienced competition for food and as such should have been provided with ad-libitum food,
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Magistrates were told that inspector Cooper made repeated attempts to contact Turner over the coming weeks so he could be interviewed about his horse but was told he was a “busy man” and would not be in any hurry. It wasn’t until January 2021 that a solicitor got in touch with the RSPCA to arrange an interview, although it never went ahead and Turner represented himself in court.
in addition to the suspended prison sentence and ten-year ban, magistrates – who deemed the offence one of high culpability – also ordered Turner to pay costs of £1,928, a victim surcharge of £128 and issued a deprivation order for the four remaining horses he owns.
Throughout the trial, Turner stated he had not done anything wrong and said he didn’t want to be disqualified from keeping equines as he had knowledge of horses and had been successful in raising them in the past.
In mitigation, he said he had financial difficulties but did not produce any details to corroborate his circumstances.
Speaking after the case, RSPCA Chief Inspector Justin Le Masurier said:
This was a very distressing case and we would like to thank World Horse Welfare and other partner agencies for their assistance, as well as the members of the public who reported their concerns about this young horse to us. A responsible horse owner would have intervened and provided their animal with veterinary attention long before they had got into such an appalling state, but this didn’t happen and sadly this filly suffered unnecessarily for a long time as a result of Mr Turner’s neglect.”